UFCW Ontario Provincial Council advocated on behalf of union members at the Ontario government’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.
The committee was studying and gathering recommendations related to the Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020 and the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on certain sectors of the economy.
“Advocating for our members is an integral part of what we do, whether it is through negotiations or political action,” said President Wayne Hanley. “As always, our number one priority is our members. It’s vital that our members’ voices are heard and their health and safety is protected during this pandemic and beyond."
Local 1006A Recorder Glacier Effs-Samuel and Local 175 & 633 Engagement & Media Relations Strategist Tim Deelstra presented on behalf of the council and highlighted the vital role UFCW members across Ontario have played during the pandemic.
"Many of our members have been on the frontlines during this pandemic, and we are proud of the exceptional job they have done to take care of Ontario families,” said Recorder Effs-Samuel.
The UFCW Ontario Provincial Council’s oral submission focused on the restaurant & food service, airport, hotel and car rental sectors.
"The thousands of workers we represent in these sectors have experienced widespread layoffs and reductions in hours, which has devastated their livelihoods,” said Recorder Effs-Samuel.
The oral submission notes:
"As the economy reopens, it is vital for the government to take concrete steps to ensure the physical, mental and economic security of workers in these industries. Decision-makers must take into account the reality that it may take years for these sectors to return to their pre-pandemic levels, including profit, customer and employment levels. The reopening must be done taking into account the health and safety of workers, restoring of consumer confidence and retraining programs and opportunities are created for workers to transition into the post-pandemic economy."
- The Ontario government must ensure increased and easy access to widespread, rapid, reliable, and publicly-delivered coronavirus testing. Efficient and timely contact-tracing must be available in the province to help protect the health and safety of workers and the public by preventing the spread of COVID-19.
- Establishment and implementation of government-required safety protocols for workers upon their return. This includes mandatory personal protective equipment for workers at restaurants, hotels, and airports as needed (including masks) and enhanced infection controls (including physical distancing and frequent sanitation/cleaning protocols).
- Presumptive application of WSIB coverage for those exposed to COVID-19 at work. This will ensure workers have confidence they won’t lose income if they contract COVID-19 on the job, and won’t rush back to work before they are healthy.
- Provide 10 permanent paid sick days to workers, so no worker has to choose between their health and their livelihoods.
- Develop conditional economic support programs for tourism industries which have been negatively impacted, with assurances that the support will help employers keep workers on the job.
- Explore funding for tourism promotion programs to attract consumers to the hospitality and tourism sectors.
- Create union-led programs to help Ontario workers to re-enter the economy. Unions are experts in worker training and are best suited to helping workers displaced by the pandemic, find meaningful employment opportunities.